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Delicate Bidding and Delicate Play

  by Richard Pavlicek

Today’s deal is one of my advanced lesson deals. It illustrates delicate judgment in the bidding, and delicate trump handling in the play. Few students survive both of these hurdles.

4 S South
None Vul
S A 7 3
H K 9 5 4
D 3
C A 9 6 5 4


1 H
3 C
3 S

1 C
1 S
3 H
4 S
S J 8 4 2
H J 7
D K 10 9 8 4
C 10 8
TableS 10 9
H Q 10 6 3
D A Q 6 5
C Q J 3

Lead: D 10
S K Q 6 5
H A 8 2
D J 7 2
C K 7 2

The first four bids are routine, then South shows that he has three-card heart support (with four he would raise previously) in case North has five hearts or four strong hearts. North is not pleased with a heart contract (lousy suit) so he shows his three-card spade support. South should bid four spades (knowing this to be a 4-3 fit) because three notrump is out of the question (no diamond stopper) and the diamond tap will come in the hand with shorter trumps; that is, if diamonds are led and continued, dummy can ruff while South retains his trump length — an important consideration with only seven trumps.

Four spades is no piece of cake, but it’s the only game that has a chance. Accurate play brings it home. Assume West leads the diamond 10 to the ace, and East shifts to the spade 10, as good of a defense as any. Win the ace in dummy and lead three rounds of clubs, conceding the third round to East’s queen. Assume a trump is returned; win the king and ruff a diamond with dummy’s last trump. So far, so good.

The temptation now is to be greedy: Declarer may return to his hand with a heart and cash the spade queen. If trumps break 3-3, he wins the rest; but the 4-2 break puts declarer down no matter what he does next. Every bridge player should know that a 3-3 break is against the odds (about 36 percent) and not to rely on one unless necessary.

The correct play after ruffing a diamond in dummy is to lead a good club and discard your last diamond. Someone will ruff (West in this case), but that is the last trick you will lose. You can ruff the diamond return (or win the heart ace), draw the last trump, and throw your heart loser on dummy’s last club.

If you would have bid and played this way, your opponents are in big trouble.

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© 1990 Richard Pavlicek